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Psychological Motives For Pursuing Serious Photography
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I’m working on a lengthy piece on the topic of the various psychological
motives that compel people to take up serious photography. After a lot of
reflection, I’m aware of a few of my own, but I’d be most interested
in hearing some insights from others.

I got the idea to pursue this the other day when I was revisiting
“O’Keeffe & Stieglitz: An American Romance,” by Benita Eisler. I
was particularly struck by these sentences by Eisler:

Photography, if not truth, in Alfred Stieglitz's life seems an
inevitability. In its complex fusion of the technical and aesthetic,
of process and practice, "seeing" and intuition, art and craft, the
making of pictures with his new machine embraced both psychological
need and expressive impulse.


Conferring the illusion of control (a piece of the world reduced,
arranged, and contained in a little black box), photography leaves the
power drive and fragile ego structure of the narcissist intact: the
photographer is the metaphysical magician who, disappearing under his
black hood (and, for Stieglitz, under his black loden cape as well),
emerges to mystify and demystify at will.

Of equal importance, the process of the work legitimizes the demands
of the obsessive-compulsive personality. In the trial and error
method necessitated by primitive equipment, the photographer could
reasonably shoot the same wall over and over; he could wash, rewash,
and wash again the heavy glass plates, cleansing them of
imperfecctions no one else could ever see. He could then "spot" the
print, chemically removing, speck by speck, any trace of impurity that
had remained hidden on the plate. What emerged, after the plate was
dry, the print perfect--as Alfred occasionally announced one of his
efforts to be--would seem nothing less than Truth, revealed and
recorded for all time.


So I’d be happy—and grateful—to hear some reactions to this, as well
as anything else that occurs to anyone in the Live Journal community.

Thanks!




Replies from PhotoForum, a list run by Professor Andy Davidhazy at the Rochester Institute of Technology's School of Photography:



Trevor Cunningham
Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 4:17 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

Please. That an individual with OCD can find exercise and meditation in process is a moot point...seems people will publish anything these days. But, that this brand of therapy (craft) finds its way to market leaves a much more interesting deficit in the DSM-V to explore.

A math professor of mine made a statement in class once that will follow me to the grave: "Social Science is the art of obfuscation." In like sense, any photographer that thinks they're capturing truth is just as guilty as any psychologist. I try my best not to fellate academics (sorry, don't have a non gender-specific equivalent in my vocabulary).


Lea Murphy
Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 5:18 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

It's like shooting hoops; you throw the ball up...sometimes it's an airball, sometimes a backboarder and sometimes a swish.

You never know precisely which you're going to get but you keep tossing the ball hoping for a bucket.

For me it's the physical act of photographing that I love...seeing the image in my viewfinder, deeply held breath, feeling my finger press the shutter, hearing it trip and KNOWING it's the shot. It's such a deep knowing that I don't even know how I know it. But I do. And that feeling coupled with knowing I can make it happen again and again (but certainly not every time) is a huge part of why I photograph.

I also love the creative process of photography...the computer, the tidy organization of my file structure, the hands-on work it takes to create a print, the endless possibilities that digital affords.

Does anything I do reveal Truth. Ha. The more I photograph and manipulate images the more I know my photography reveals all sorts of things BUT truth. They reveal my mood, my whims, my level of expertise, my ideas at the time I created the image or the print but are any of those Truth? I don't think so. But then again, I'm not trying to reveal Truth, I'm trying to show what I saw, what I felt, what I felt about what I saw.

No matter how clean and well-spotted a print is, it's still not Truth unless it is simply the truth that a particular photographer is meticulous in his work.

Interesting subject matter,

Lea

Herschel Mair
Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 12:33 AM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

I wanted to study music and my family wanted me to be an architect... I studied photography. The faculty was in the printing and lithography department. It was "The British way" - Professionalism and know-how above all else. The old debate about "Art" hardly entered the equation.

I'm not dealing with truth at all. It's such a vague abstract.... your truth my truth our truth... and changeable. I don't believe photographs are capable of translating what we feel or what we see truthfully. They will almost always trigger a different and personal experience for every viewer. The viewer feels and sees from his own life and experience.

"We see things not as they are but as we are." Einstein

I am motivated by two dynamics. I take pictures to sell stuff and I take pictures to please myself.

The former is done to other people's specifications mostly. I shoot to please an art director or a client etc...

The latter is done to satisfy an urge to play with light and perhaps to collect... To find images that fit into my projects so that they tell a better story and are visually more pleasing.

I almost never shoot stuff that I don't "Need" for a project. What would I do with a pretty sunset? I love them as much as the next man and sometimes the light is so beautiful it turns me inside out. But I am not tempted to reach for a camera. I don't take gear with me when I go on vacation.
For over 25 years now, photography has been work. Work that I love to do, but work nevertheless.

Herschel


mark@masteroftheimage.com
Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 10:54 AM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

I totally disagree. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your facts. Truth is fact. Truth is absolute. There is no gray in truth. You may not like it, and you may wish it were different, but its there none the less.

Now if you are creating art and the composition is perfect except for a tree you do not like in the frame, if you change the composition to leave it out is that the truth? Yes for that spot on the earth exists at that moment in time. If you take the image from the original point and clone it out is that the truth? No but for a print I am representing as art and not documentary, I would have no problem doing that at all. A model shows up with a big tattoo on her shoulder that disrupts the lines of her dress flowing. There is a big difference in cloning out the tat from a gallery print and cloning out the tat for an ID photo.

I don't believe it is that hard to show truth, but showing emotions is a really tough assignment. Creating an emotional response to your work in the viewer that is the response you intended is the ultimate measure of success of an image.


Herschel Mair
Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 12:11 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

Facts are only facts from a given perspective. Only the very simplest facts stand up to inspection..
"The sky is blue"... well actually not... more correctly put "The sky appears blue"

And truth must be defined: Biblical truth? physical truth? Political truth? what properties must a fact have to be "TRUE"?

Simply to have been observed is hardly enough. How many optical illusions are absolutely convincing? How fickle is the mind? Surely observation involves the observer's life, experience, emotions?

So what properties constitute "Truth"? and can a camera reproduce these faithfully? Is there any integrity to truth? Must it be "The whole truth" or can it be partially true? Must it contain all the facts or can it relate only some selected facts? Surely if you can pick and choose only the facts which suit you, then you have a manipulation. Perhaps even a lie?

Isn't it true that any photograph leaves out far more than it includes? The frame line, by virtue of its selectivity and exclusion makes any photograph a lie or at least a manipulation of the facts. And what about time? Obviously the truth at Gettysburg this morning is not as it was 1863. We select the time at which we shoot.

And what about viewpoint? what might seem true from one viewpoint may be totally different by moving a few inches. Escher showed that.

We are like the inhabitants of Plato's cave. Looking at shadows and making our truths out of them

We all believed in Newtonian gravity. Quite observable and quite "provable"... "What goes up must come down" A "Self-evident truth" but not really... even the idea of "Up" isn't true.
Einstein radically changed the way we think about gravity and made Newton all but obsolete. And as we speak Einstein's theories are being challenged.

I could aske you: "Is there a hippopotamus in your bedroom?" and you might reply "NO" but how do you know?... Because you can't see one?
There is probably oxygen in your bedroom? But can you see it either.

The famous mathematician, Bertrand Russell said that you'd have a terrible time writing a proof for "There is no hippo in this room"

Truth is a comfortable concept. It's comforting to think we have a firm handle on life and the universe... but alas it's all too flimsy.


John Palcewski
Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 2:48 PM
To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu

Truth is indeed elusive. But what about the various "psychological
needs" that Eisler says drove Stieglitz? Doesn't this suggest that
creativity is a form of madness? And what is behind a creative
person's "expressive impulse?"



Herschel Mair Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 5:06 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

With respect to Eisler, I feel she is from the golden age of Freudian, universal frames of reference. Her sexually graphic descriptions of his nudes as some kind of twisted pornography speak volumes about Eisler but say very little about Steiglitz.

Also, to say that creativity is some form of madness (In a negative sense) thus painting all creatives with the same brush, is disingenuous. I believe we are driven by our own personal dynamics. I doubt whether Robert Mapplethorpe was propelled by the same forces as Ansel Adams?


Herschel Mair Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 5:06 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

With respect to Eisler, I feel she is from the golden age of Freudian, universal frames of reference. Her sexually graphic descriptions of his nudes as some kind of twisted pornography speak volumes about Eisler but say very little about Steiglitz.

Also, to say that creativity is some form of madness (In a negative sense) thus painting all creatives with the same brush, is disingenuous. I believe we are driven by our own personal dynamics. I doubt whether Robert Mapplethorpe was propelled by the same forces as Ansel Adams?

mark@masteroftheimage.com Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 11:01 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

If truth is flexible then no form of society can function. One man sees it as the absolute truth that he is entitled because of mistreatment to break that window and take a TV because of a past wrong. The owner of the shop who paid for the tv will most certainly think he stole it. FACT the first guy broke the window and took the TV. That was the truth. Neither perspective or opinion will change the fact he broke a window and took a tv.

Capturing what is really there isn't that hard, but its also no more difficult to make a photograph lie. With digital imaging its even easier.

Gregory Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 1:05 AM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

Again, I have to agree. Why do you think Photojournalists get fired on the spot when it’s discovered they doctored an image.

Two more books worth looking into; Truth Needs No Ally by Howard Chapnick and The First Casualty by Phillip Knightly.

From: mark@masteroftheimage.com
Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 8:01 PM
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students
Subject: RE: Psychological Motives for Pursuing Photography

If truth is flexible then no form of society can function. One man sees it as the absolute truth that he is entitled because of mistreatment to break that window and take a TV because of a past wrong. The owner of the shop who paid for the tv will most certainly think he stole it. FACT the first guy broke the window and took the TV. That was the truth. Neither perspective or opinion will change the fact he broke a window and took a tv.

Capturing what is really there isn't that hard, but its also no more difficult to make a photograph lie. With digital imaging its even easier.

Karl Shah-Jenner Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 1:39 AM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students
From: mark@masteroftheimage.com

I totally disagree. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your facts. Truth is fact. Truth is absolute. There is no gray in truth. You may not like it, and you may wish it were different, but its there none the less.

to quote from grumpyoldsod's website

"The fact is that there's no such thing as a fact. I frequently have people who've read one of my pages emailing me to say “you want to get your facts straight”. What they actually mean is that I should accept their version of the truth, not my own.

Take speed cameras, for instance. I was taken to task recently for using the expression “safety cameras”, because of course they don't monitor safety, they only measure speed. Anyway, I once talked to a policeman who told me he wasn't very keen on speed cameras. What he really liked, he said, was to follow a speeding driver, stop him, and “educate” him. This education would take the form of a lecture on why speeding is dangerous, and how devastating the injuries caused by speeding frequently are. It would be in vain for the errant driver to say that the police's own figures show that excessive speed is a causative factor in only 7.3% of accidents, and that most of the dreadful injuries were caused by drink, drugs, or simple inattention. The policeman would insist: he knew “the facts”, he would tell the driver “the facts” and “the facts” would speak for themselves.

I watched a wildlife programme the other night, about seahorses. ..Yachtsmen visiting that particular bay would drop anchor, their anchor chains would scrape across the sand as the tide swung them round, and the seagrass would be unable to get a toehold, thus limiting the habitat into which the seahorses might expand if they wanted. This meant that there were only about forty seahorses there, when there ought to have been three or four times as many (it wasn't made clear how the environmentalists knew how many there ought to be, but I'm sure they weren't guessing. I mean, they were talking facts, weren't they?) There was no evidence that any seahorse had been harmed in the making of that particular anchorage, and it wasn't actually proved that the anchor chains were doing what the environmentalists said, although it sounds plausible. Still, so far as these worthies were concerned, the facts were that as usual the wicked humans were destroying the poor defenceless animals. What was needed was “education”. The yachtsmen had to be told “the facts”.

When it comes down to it, facts are just what you think they are. Very few facts are capable of conclusive proof, and facts can change over the years. It was once a fact that the earth was flat. Then it was a fact that the earth is round. Now it's a fact that the earth bulges in the middle.

..God is a fact for some, and history tells us that there certainly have been many deaths to support that fact. Mohammed is a fact for others, so much that some are prepared to blow themselves up for him. Conan Doyle believed that fairies were a fact. Facts are just what you think at the moment. Next year a new set of facts will come along.

It all depends what you want to believe, and where you're standing at the time. Looking across the room as I type, I'm prepared to state as a fact that the cat is sitting on the table. She knows she isn't supposed to be up there, and has the good grace to look a little shifty.

But is it a fact? It might be to me, but suppose I was the cat? She has no concept of “table”, any more than she understands a left-hand thread or a piece of Mozart. To her, a table is just a bit more up. Can you really sit on something that doesn't exist? Is her perception of the world in any way inferior to mine? She can see in the dark, and I couldn't catch a mouse.

Or suppose I was the table? If the table had any sentience it could well be thinking “This idiot cat may think she's sitting on me. What she doesn't know is that I am gallantly holding her up in the air and preventing her from crashing to the floor and hurting herself. Not that I expect any thanks, of course”. ...”

The worst offenders are those who know the least, frankly. The more ignorant you are, the firmer your grasp on those “facts” that suit you, and the more belligerent you are in forcing them on others. There have been remarkably few terrorist outrages committed by Oxford graduates, and so far as I know the membership list of Mensa includes no one with a suspicious bulk under their jacket and wires sticking out of their trousers.

Scientists ought by rights to have the clearest grasp of the facts. They seem to spend their lives trying to find out more. But you rarely find a scientist stamping his feet on the floor and shouting “You want to get your facts right!” What you do find is scientists saying “Yes, this theory fits the evidence as we know it, so we assume it is more likely to be a reasonable explanation. Until a better theory comes along, we'll use this one.” ..

Then next year they invent a new theory. Salt is bad for you, salt is good for you, you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day, water is poison, the earth is warming, the earth is cooling, the Sun is going to explode, the Sun is heading for a quiet period, the Earth is flat, the Sun goes round the Moon, space is empty, space is full of stuff, the world is 1,700 years old, lead in petrol makes engines cleaner, thalidomide the wonder drug, if you travel at more than 30mph on a train you'll suffocate, rats are created from dung-hills by parthenogenesis, it's more merciful to torture a non-believer to death so that they die in a state of repentance and may go to heaven ... sorry, wandering off the point a bit. They're all facts, though, or have been at some time.

No, facts suck. I spit on facts. Stick to good old-fashioned prejudice, and if anyone questions you, just shout louder."

Emily L. Ferguson Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 1:39 AM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students
Reply | Reply to all | Forward | Print | Delete | Show original
Truth is always flexible. Haven't you ever gotten a divorce? Don't you know someone who is schizophrenic or hyperactive or feels strongly about an issue?

The only truth that an individual can represent, whether through words, images or actions, is their personal truth.
--
Emily L. Ferguson
mailto:elf@landsedgephoto.com


Trevor Cunningham Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 2:18 AM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

Conviction of such a crime would also require the perception of several others "beyond a reasonable doubt" that that is in fact the truth. They even have people swear to God when they talk about what happened. I believe you're a little off true north on the society claim. It's the social contract that goes further than anything to facilitate civil order. If truth were inflexible, we wouldn't have innocent people in prison or being executed. Another perspective: religion has long been a means of establishing and maintaining social order and is centered around a faithful acceptance of a particular truth. Similarly, mathematics disciplines have a logical foundation in generally accepted assumptions from which proof is derived. Granted, these assumptions have largely stood the test of time and logical scrutiny, but, like society and religion, truth requires perspective which is exceptionally flawed.

Herschel Mair Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 9:33 AM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

Photographers get fired because they're not allowed to "Doctor" images post shooting.... But how much more "Doctored" and even sinister, is a photograph when the biased photographer changes his position in order to exclude a scene that contradicts the story he's trying to tell. Here the evil is untraceable so I suppose you would say that was acceptable and would not call that photograph "Doctored"?

No magazine will send you on an assignment without telling you the "Angle" they want the story from.

Picture a scenario where a hard-core, right-wing paper and a hard-core, left-wing paper each send a photographer to cover the same event. They'll come back with completely different images.
Now we know, logically, that if two pieces of data contradict each other they can either both be lies or one can be true but they can't both be true...
So where is the absolute truth here?

With any photography you can make up any story you like and then selectively shoot images to make the story look true.

Look at the amazing work of Leni Riefenstahl who made Hitler look like a savior to the German population. She had no digital cameras and no Photoshop.

BTW, I have read Chapnick's book, even taught using it as a text book... and I found it rather naive and sometimes a little too sentimental. Some of the greatest photojournalism which was accepted as truth when it was published has subsequently been found to have been "Doctored"


From: mark@masteroftheimage.com
Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 8:01 PM
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students
Subject: RE: Psychological Motives for Pursuing Photography

If truth is flexible then no form of society can function. One man sees it as the absolute truth that he is entitled because of mistreatment to break that window and take a TV because of a past wrong. The owner of the shop who paid for the tv will most certainly think he stole it. FACT the first guy broke the window and took the TV. That was the truth. Neither perspective or opinion will change the fact he broke a window and took a tv.

Capturing what is really there isn't that hard, but its also no more difficult to make a photograph lie. With digital imaging its even easier.


Jeff McSweeney - Creative Strategist Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 10:12 AM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

By entering a scene the photographer, by her very presence, changes the truth.

The use of a wide angle or telephoto lens, black & white or color, to lie down or stand on a ladder changes the truth.

There is no such thing as a purely true image.

For the sake of this discussion please share the image that carries the most truth to you.

Jeff McSweeney


jeffmcsweeney.com ~ jeff@jeffmcsweeney.com
From: "mark@masteroftheimage.com"
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students
Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 10:01 PM
Subject: RE: Psychological Motives for Pursuing Photography

If truth is flexible then no form of society can function. One man sees it as the absolute truth that he is entitled because of mistreatment to break that window and take a TV because of a past wrong. The owner of the shop who paid for the tv will most certainly think he stole it. FACT the first guy broke the window and took the TV. That was the truth. Neither perspective or opinion will change the fact he broke a window and took a tv.

Capturing what is really there isn't that hard, but its also no more difficult to make a photograph lie. With digital imaging its even easier.


mark@masteroftheimage.com Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 10:55 AM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

But when they send you for an angle, they are asking for images that support their opinion. Opinion is NOT truth. When an newspaper sends one out, (and I agree it happens all the time) with a specific "angle" in which to cover a particular event, they have compromised their own integrity right from the start. A journalist really shouldn't be picking sides. A journalist shouldn't be leading the story or a part of the story. They should be covering the story. Now if you want to label it opinion, write what you want. The fact that so many biases exists says more about how far journalism has sunk (in my opinion) than any single thing to which I could point.

In my previous example I didn't say breaking the window was a crime. FACT one guy broke the window and took the TV. That is the truth. Anything else changes history. Courts might convict him or her, or they might not, but they still took the window.

Photoshop makes things easier, but doctoring photos has been around almost as long as photography. It used to be expensive, difficult and beyond the means of most to accomplish, but it still could have been and was done. People have always been flawed and ethics has never been perfect. Just because it was taught doesn't make it any more or less true.

I was taught many things as truth, but were not so in school. They were false when taught, no matter how they were represented, and they are false today and will be false to the end of time and beyond.

There is also lying, and as my dad said "not telling the whole truth". His words were clear. Telling only part of the truth with the intent to miss lead is as inethical as a falsehood. Finding a single sign in a crowd of thousands to smear the entire group in an article is common, and the sign being there is the truth. It WAS there. Yet to tell the whole story the rest of the truth was the people around that sign protesting its content, asking them to get rid of it, asking them to leave, and peacefully engaging in open debate in opposition. Showing the whole context is the truth for a reporter. A bias reporter would either leave out the sign all together by cropping, or doing a close up on that sign. A journalist would show the sign, but show the opposition to it in its context.


Herschel Mair Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 9:33 AM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

Photographers get fired because they're not allowed to "Doctor" images post shooting.... But how much more "Doctored" and even sinister, is a photograph when the biased photographer changes his position in order to exclude a scene that contradicts the story he's trying to tell. Here the evil is untraceable so I suppose you would say that was acceptable and would not call that photograph "Doctored"?

No magazine will send you on an assignment without telling you the "Angle" they want the story from.

Picture a scenario where a hard-core, right-wing paper and a hard-core, left-wing paper each send a photographer to cover the same event. They'll come back with completely different images.
Now we know, logically, that if two pieces of data contradict each other they can either both be lies or one can be true but they can't both be true...
So where is the absolute truth here?

With any photography you can make up any story you like and then selectively shoot images to make the story look true.

Look at the amazing work of Leni Riefenstahl who made Hitler look like a savior to the German population. She had no digital cameras and no Photoshop.

BTW, I have read Chapnick's book, even taught using it as a text book... and I found it rather naive and sometimes a little too sentimental. Some of the greatest photojournalism which was accepted as truth when it was published has subsequently been found to have been "Doctored"

Herschel


Jeff McSweeney - Creative Strategist Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 10:12 AM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

By entering a scene the photographer, by her very presence, changes the truth.

The use of a wide angle or telephoto lens, black & white or color, to lie down or stand on a ladder changes the truth.

There is no such thing as a purely true image.

For the sake of this discussion please share the image that carries the most truth to you.

Jeff McSweeney
jeffmcsweeney.com ~ jeff@jeffmcsweeney.com

mark@masteroftheimage.com Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 10:55 AM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

But when they send you for an angle, they are asking for images that support their opinion. Opinion is NOT truth. When an newspaper sends one out, (and I agree it happens all the time) with a specific "angle" in which to cover a particular event, they have compromised their own integrity right from the start. A journalist really shouldn't be picking sides. A journalist shouldn't be leading the story or a part of the story. They should be covering the story. Now if you want to label it opinion, write what you want. The fact that so many biases exists says more about how far journalism has sunk (in my opinion) than any single thing to which I could point.

In my previous example I didn't say breaking the window was a crime. FACT one guy broke the window and took the TV. That is the truth. Anything else changes history. Courts might convict him or her, or they might not, but they still took the window.

Photoshop makes things easier, but doctoring photos has been around almost as long as photography. It used to be expensive, difficult and beyond the means of most to accomplish, but it still could have been and was done. People have always been flawed and ethics has never been perfect. Just because it was taught doesn't make it any more or less true.

I was taught many things as truth, but were not so in school. They were false when taught, no matter how they were represented, and they are false today and will be false to the end of time and beyond.

There is also lying, and as my dad said "not telling the whole truth". His words were clear. Telling only part of the truth with the intent to miss lead is as inethical as a falsehood. Finding a single sign in a crowd of thousands to smear the entire group in an article is common, and the sign being there is the truth. It WAS there. Yet to tell the whole story the rest of the truth was the people around that sign protesting its content, asking them to get rid of it, asking them to leave, and peacefully engaging in open debate in opposition. Showing the whole context is the truth for a reporter. A bias reporter would either leave out the sign all together by cropping, or doing a close up on that sign. A journalist would show the sign, but show the opposition to it in its context.

David Dyer-Bennet Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 12:48 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students


On Thu, September 1, 2011 00:39, Emily L. Ferguson wrote:
> Truth is always flexible. Haven't you ever gotten a divorce? Don't
> you know someone who is schizophrenic or hyperactive or feels
> strongly about an issue?
>
> The only truth that an individual can represent, whether through
> words, images or actions, is their personal truth.

I think it's probably true that some people, far too many these days, are
so far gone diving into their own navels that they can't tell the
difference between reality and their "personal truth".

If anything is going to destroy human civilization, this is it. Losing
touch with reality drastically harms our ability to make rational
decisions about difficult and important questions.
--

David Dyer-Bennet Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 12:52 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students


On Thu, September 1, 2011 09:12, Jeff McSweeney - Creative Strategist wrote:
>
> By entering a scene the photographer, by her very presence, changes the
> truth.

More or less, sure.

> The use of a wide angle or telephoto lens, black & white or color, to lie
> down or stand on a ladder changes the truth.

No, it does not. It changes the image. It does NOT change the truth.

> There is no such thing as a purely true image.

I don't know what "purely true image" means. To a first approximation,
ALL camera-original images are "true". (What they're not, IMHO, is
"complete".)

> For the sake of this discussion please share the image that carries the
> most truth to you.

Some one image? For me, that's not a meaningful question.


Herschel Mair Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 2:41 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

There you have it David:

I don't know what "purely true image" means. To a first approximation,
ALL camera-original images are "true". (What they're not, IMHO, is
"complete".)

They are never COMPLETE truths and an incomplete truth, a selected truth, a consciously manipulated truth - IMHO is a lie. A man who shows only the part of the scene that suits his own convictions is, by virtue of exclusion, creating a lie, even without touching a single pixel. That photograph is a lie. You can't leave it up to the viewer to ask the right questions in order to get the whole truth.

An analogy:

A man oversleeps. On the way to work he sees a car accident on the other side of the highway. When he get's to work his boss asks him why he's late and he says "There was a terrible accident on the N 42. You should have seen it.. ambulances and fire engines holding up the traffic."
The boss says "OK" and walks away

I ask you: Was the man telling the truth? To a first approximation. the sentence was true - but he was offering it as an excuse for being late which makes it the worst kind of lie, couched in the truth. If his boss had asked him "Was it on your side of the highway?" he'd have got a better picture.

And that's how it is with a photograph. The viewer accepts the image as a representation of what was there at the time. We trust the picture. But it is not trustworthy because it is incomplete - always- there is a lot of information concealed because it never made it into the frame.

Thus I propose that a photograph is entirely incapable of telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


Frederick H Hecker Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 3:11 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

Truth, I believe, is indivisible and unknowable in its entirety.

There exists only one true reality, which can be experienced by our minds in an infinite number of ways.

An artwork can artistically suggest only a very rough approximation of a single view of reality based on the artist's experience.
But no artistic work is able to capture and present all of the artist's actual creative intent in producing it:
Every work of art is part of reality, but only part, and by nature cannot imitate reality completely.

All art is imperfect.

Art is thrilling when it evokes aspects of reality beyond what it actually presents.


David Dyer-Bennet Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 3:33 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students


On Thu, September 1, 2011 13:41, Herschel Mair wrote:
> There you have it David:
>> I don't know what "purely true image" means. To a first approximation,
>> ALL camera-original images are "true". (What they're not, IMHO, is
>> "complete".)
> They are never COMPLETE truths and an incomplete truth, a selected
> truth, a consciously manipulated truth - /IMHO/ is a lie. A man who
> shows only the part of the scene that suits his own convictions is, by
> virtue of exclusion, creating a lie, even without touching a single
> pixel. That photograph is a lie. You can't leave it up to the viewer to
> ask the right questions in order to get the whole truth.

Of course, and that's true when you present the photograph in a context
implying it's more than it is. That's why "complete" is the key in my
reading of the situation.

Herschel Mair Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 3:43 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

Agreed at last - must you must consider that all photographs are presented out of context. A picture on a gallery wall could not be more out of context.

YGelmanPhoto Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 11:16 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

Sorry, folks, but this discussion is truly off the wall at this point. Maybe we could cut it off? Or, take it private.

With no offense implied, the discussion sounds like a couple of geezers yappin' it up. It's actually kind of funny.

And I know I'll get bad stuff thrown at me, but there it is.

David Dyer-Bennet Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 11:36 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

On 2011-09-01 14:43, Herschel Mair wrote:


On 9/1/11 1:33 PM, David Dyer-Bennet wrote:

On Thu, September 1, 2011 13:41, Herschel Mair wrote:

There you have it David:

I don't know what "purely true image" means. To a first approximation,
ALL camera-original images are "true". (What they're not, IMHO, is
"complete".)

They are never COMPLETE truths and an incomplete truth, a selected
truth, a consciously manipulated truth - /IMHO/ is a lie. A man who
shows only the part of the scene that suits his own convictions is, by
virtue of exclusion, creating a lie, even without touching a single
pixel. That photograph is a lie. You can't leave it up to the viewer to
ask the right questions in order to get the whole truth.

Of course, and that's true when you present the photograph in a context
implying it's more than it is. That's why "complete" is the key in my
reading of the situation.

> Agreed at last - must you must consider that all photographs are
> presented out of context. A picture on a gallery wall could not be
> more out of context.

Probably true. Galleries, after all, are for art, where truth becomes even more subjective.

Part of the excitement I guess is the applying aesthetic standards to documentary photos. It's inevitable, I even agree with it, but it still leads to even more confusion (and provides yet another incentive to shade the truth in ones photos!).


Trevor Cunningham Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 11:57 PM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

I'm no geezer, that's Herschel! :)



Jonathan Turner Fri, Sep 2, 2011 at 5:38 AM
Reply-To: photoforum@listserver.rit.edu
To: List for Photo/Imaging Educators - Professionals - Students

On this subject I would have to quote my all time hero; Richard Avedon;

"A Portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate, none of them is the truth."

And who could disagree with the master...?

Jonathan.
Jonathan Turner Photographer e: pictures@jonathan-turner.com t: 07796 470573 w: www.jonathan-turner.com



















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H'mm.

My lodger is a serious photographer, and that piece of text definitely makes me think of him. He has a good digital camera, but he will still spend ages getting a shot just right and then, where applicable, post-processing it once he has got it onto his computer. He's good at what he does, and he's proud of that - rightly so, because he has produced some amazing shots.

I'm not a serious photographer, and I don't particularly want to be. Mainly, I take photographs of people. When I take a photo of someone, I insist on capturing their personality and getting something they are happy with; that is as much of a point of pride with me as the lodger's technical skill is with him. I have a fairly basic digital camera, not super-cheap, but about average. It is nowhere near capable of the sort of shots my lodger can get.

But I can take the photos with it that I want to take, and the lodger, for all his ability, and for all the superiority of his camera and add-on equipment, can't take photos of people that are anywhere near as good as mine. To do that, you don't need to be great with a camera... but you do need to be good with people.

Capturing a subject's personality and making him or her happy with the result seems to me very much like what a serious photographer does! Which is to say that you aren't frivolous or hurried or sloppy with your camera, but are paying very careful attention to what you're doing.

Maybe the difference between you and your lodger isn't all that great. I suspect he's got very low social needs and avoids human interaction.

I don't really know what I'm doing with the camera. My whole attention is on the person, and I just try to catch them as fast as possible so that their expression doesn't stiffen up and become unnatural. It's always very much point-and-shoot.

You have described my lodger to a T. Getting him out of the house to socialise with anyone is a major victory.

Except for specifics such as the black hood, Eisler's remarks could apply just as well to the poet! This poet anyhow. But I am not obsessive-compulsive nor narcissist in other areas of my life, only in the making of poems. Which makes me wonder if she is a bit too sweeping about photographers in general or Stieglitz in particular.

I was struck by Eisler being so uninhibited in laying a psychiatric diagnosis on Stieglitz. Her bio blurb says she's a native New Yorker with degrees from Smith and Harvard, and has taught at Princeton. She did a biography of Byron and other books. Nowhere do I see any psychiatric credentials!

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